Norwegian chief welcomes competition in low-cost transatlantic market

Norwegian chief welcomes competition in low-cost transatlantic market

Bjørn Kjos, chief executive of low-cost carrier Norwegian Air, has urged rivals to join the carrier in the low-cost transatlantic market.

Addressing an industry audience in London, the often outspoken airline leader argued: “I hope some of our competitors make it in this market.

“They are creating demand, bringing in passengers who could not afford to fly before.

“Now fares can be so low, new people are moving into the market.”

Norwegian is the latest carrier to attempt to launch a low-cost transatlantic business, with flights currently on offer to Boston, New York and Los Angeles, among others.

Kjos pointed to the success of Ryanair in Europe, with the low-cost carrier building a market for travel which had previously not existed with its offering.

Norwegian has benefited from low oil prices and the launch of the Boeing Dreamliner to so far make a success of it transatlantic venture.

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Kjos also pointed to the development of online booking as a key ingredient in the airline’s growth.

“We are set apart by the internet,” he explained, “guests used to have to book through a travel agency, but now 85 per cent go through our website.”

A network of more than 500 routes in Europe, feeding the transatlantic network, was also vital he added.

“We fly where passengers want to travel and so don’t have to depend on another carrier to feed our network,” he explained.

International Airlines Group, owner of British Airways and Iberia, recently launched low-cost carrier LEVEL in a move widely seen as a response to the success of the Norwegian transatlantic operations.

Lufthansa-owned Eurowings is also expected to launch flights across the Atlantic this year.

However, while Kjos suggested the strong leadership of IAG chief Willie Walsh might allow LEVEL to succeed, he warned others it would take more than simply “painting the plane a different colour” for low-cost operations to prevail.

“It is more difficult than that,” he added.

Bjørn Kjos, chief executive of Norwegian Air, was speaking earlier at the Skift Europe Forum hosted today in London.